[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first post from our new concert reviewer Amrit, the man behind Village Indian, a site we stumbled upon after his Sufjan Stevens review. Since then, we've loved VI's Chad VanGaalen, Doveman, and Editors write-ups and photos. He'll be doing some exclusive reports for Stereogum, starting below with Sigur Rós. Enjoy. -Scott]

Attempting to distill the unearthly element at play when Sigur Rós take the stage is a serious undertaking. Yes, I understand that using a cello bow on a delay drenched, distorted Les Paul could elicit a desperately mournful whale-song sound; I have come to understand that a man can possess a head voice and falsetto so mind numbingly gorgeous such as to make sirens blush; and I can fully appreciate that horns and strings will transform a world class rhythm section into an absolute force of nature. But after a 14 song set on this, my third evening with Sigur Rós, I remain mystified by the artistic prowess of these four men and their songwriting.

From behind the translucent curtain separating stage from sold out Theater at MSG came a floodlight, soon followed by four thin Icelandic shadows. As pre-recorded opener “Takk” slowly faded out, bassist Georg Holm moved into the repetitive bass figure that forms the foundation of “Glosoli,” and for the next 120 minutes a spellbound crowd sat rapt in awe of Jonsi Birggison’s impassioned wail.

Sigur Rós effortlessly creates the sort of cinematic drama that bands like Coldplay futilely spend days and dollars in pursuit of, and their performance this evening was true to form. Joined on stage at times by a nine-piece brass section and a string section comprised entirely of opening act Amina, Sigur Rós moved through a set drawing heavily upon last year’s Takk and the classic Agaetis Byrjun. The only non-album song in the evening?s setlist was also the one met with the most vocal response: the live favorite “Hafsol,” which features a bass line born of 1/32nd notes tapped by a drumstick and a frenzied tempo-accelerating finale.


[Beautiful pic by Dave Vegan. Hit his site for many more.]

An unusually glib and animated Jonsi offered more than his patented “Tank yu,” as he felt compelled to explain the difficulty of counting beats through the irritating stage noise audible during the otherwise lush and glacial “Heysatan.” This moment — in conjunction with Mr. Birggison humorously fumbling with a lyric crib sheet during the Steve Zissou endorsed “Staralfor” (ironic because so few of his songs contain actual lyrics to forget) — allowed us a rare glimpse at the child-like spirit animating the band?s creative fountainhead.

During their last tour of duty, I spent two nights with Sigur Rós at the Beacon. The intimacy afforded by that room was hard to replicate in the large and impersonal Theater at MSG, due to the cavernous disconnect between stage and seat and the hall’s acoustic issues. Unfortunately, the sheer capacity of the venue was bound to draw some disrespectful fans, and they revealed themselves with a few inappropriately timed hollers and catcalls. The band soldiered on, however, and their gut wrenching performance demonstrated that no matter the variables, one would never attend a bad Sigur Rós show.

Billy Joel was playing the Stadium at MSG upstairs, and more than half the people seated in the Theater were those whom I had improperly identified as being Joel fans while in the lobby. It seems that our Icelandic brethren have become a sort of “theater”: families and couples, hipsters and seniors, mothers sisters daughters & wives, unified in admiration for a band beholden to challenging itself and its audience. And they said modern society was in a state of decay.

SETLIST
1. Glosoli
2. Ny Batteri
3. Saeglopur
4. Gong
5. Andvari
6. Hoppipolla
7. Meo Bloonasir
8. Se Lest
9. Olsen Olsen
10. Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa
11. Svo Hljott
12. Heysatan
13. Staralfur

Encore 1: Hafsol
Encore 2: Untitled 8 (Popplagio)

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Comments (51)
  1. sarahoc  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    Great review Amrit! Now I am sorry I didn’t go too. But it makes me even more excited for Coachella, if that is possible.

  2. nick  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    Ahhhh… I had to give up my ticket to the show and I don’t know if I should thank you for the review or not. You paint such a picture that I’m even more frustrated that I had to miss it.

  3. jonboy  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    gotta agree with the issues with the venue. the show was rad though-and the brass definitely brought it.

  4. joddy  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    glad to see more concert reviews coming to stereogum! good times.

  5. Daniel  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    Dope review VI. Couldn’t have summed it up better. Will definitely forward it on to the SR fans on the west coast who could not attend.

  6. whirlybird  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    wow, Jonsi speaks! I didn’t know that was possible. too cool. Wish i were there to hear that…

  7. Kim  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    awesome to here that they can play a great show -even at MSG with Billy Joel trying to distract them! great review- look forward to more

  8. Billy  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    Awesome review, couldn’t agree more. Only wish more critics had the music knowlege that Amrit so obviously posseses.

  9. Great review. A bit of nitpickiness, but ‘Hafsol’ IS an album track from ‘Von’ I believe.

  10. pitchfork blows  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    mmm…tastes like pitchfork-without the bile. me likey…sigur ros blows my mind.

  11. Thanks for the love.

    u2popmofo–a version of “Hafsol” appears on Von, but it only resembles the live version in melody. The “Hafsol” the band plays in concert begins with a unique bass line, and works its way to a dramatic, dynamic climax. Sigur Ros recently recorded a studio take of the concert version of “Hafsol” (with one less “s” then the “Hafssol” from Von) and released it as a b-side on the “Hoppipolla” single.

    Sorry to geek out right there. I like the nitpickiness though. Glad you enjoyed.

  12. vanessa  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    What a picture you painted! I’m drooling.

  13. nick  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    THIS DUDE CAN WRITE

  14. Gabi  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    VI- I’d heard of SR from a friend who really likes him but was never set on the idea that I must see him. Now, after reading your review, I MUST see him. He better get himself down to Austin soon. Of course, I need to see/hear him in person for myself, but I have followed your advice (from the Village Indian blog) on artists before and you haven’t let me down. Thanks for keeping my music collection fresh and cutting edge.
    –Gabi

  15. Gabe  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    Amrit,

    Very insightful review. You give the reader a true and accurate picture of what being at the show felt like in an experiential sense, rather than just what they sounded like. It’s almost as if this Village Indian had some kind of background in music and/or writing…great review, and keep letting those of us who are stuck in places with less than stellar music scenes what we should be keeping abreast of musically. Good stuff.

  16. Having never seen Sigur Ros live, I can see how it would only add to their allure to be able to put them in a visual context. This paints a nice picture of that!

  17. sarab  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2006 0

    haha, “mothers sisters daughters & wives.” Voxtrot rules.

    great review though…seems like the Beacon show was better, which makes me feel better about missing this one!

  18. RoadRunner  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    SR is a family event now? Dude, that’s freakin’ scary. Next time, pick me up a commemorative heysatan beenie baby.

    Anybody out there got an mp3 of hafsol? I wanna feel that madbeat.

    R.R.

  19. alicia  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    good get scott

  20. that was a decent review… more impressive than the review itself: a music writer who actually *likes* music. nice to see someone on the indie scene who isn’t trying to either pander to the band in question, or demonstrate a cool, detached irony by either dismissing the band in question, or anticipating the next big thing. that was definitely the review of a music fan, not an indie poser.

    good work.

  21. Rudy  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    Great Review. I fell like I was there. Will definitely check out the back

  22. Rudy  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    Great Review. I fell like I was there. Will definitely check out the band.

  23. i wish SR was coming up to toronto.. that sounded like one awesome show.

  24. Jenna  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    This was my first exposure to Sigur Ros (I was very generously invited to the show by a friend). I have to say I LOVE them. I would have loved to see them in a more intimate setting.
    Peace

  25. great review, but slightly pretentious brotha. regardless, look forward to more. just less “such as to make sirens blush.” that one just hurt.

  26. Ha-fair enough michael. I worked on this piece until 5:30 am the night/morning after the show and, as I opened with, putting anything about these guys into words is damn near impossible.

    At least I didn’t speak of them in terms of glaciers…oh. Well, they are pretty dramatic, and I suppose I wanted the review to reflect that in some way.

    Thanks for the comments and thanks to Scott-I’m glad to contribute to Stereogum.

  27. check out my review too, up on the music slut!

  28. Oaks  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    I am a sigur ros novice so your article just educated me a bit. Their intensity intrigues me. ‘Tanks’ for the review.

  29. sharmin  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    great re-cap! i saw them in chicago, and your review was on point. it was a beautiful performance but there were venue issues and inappropriate catcalls in the midwest too.

  30. Todd  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    Great review! I have heard their stuff before but never seen them live, and now I have to catch their live show. I hope they r coming back to the chi soon.

  31. Excellent review! I also have some Sigur Ros photos, mine are from Boston’s Orpheum theatre. Feel free to check em out…or not…whatever. http://www.flickr.com/photos/birkley3030/

  32. Cindy  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    I recently started listed to SR…and this review seems to cover it…quite well. It’s too bad I missed the show – would have loved it!

  33. Cindy  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    I recently started listening to SR…and this review seems to cover it…quite well. It’s too bad I missed the show – would have loved it!

  34. aditi  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    The music this band produces is amazing! I wish I had a chance to see them live, I can only imagine what an experience it would be after reading your review.

  35. Kenda  |   Posted on Feb 14th, 2006 0

    I seriously wish I was there — those guys make me cry.

  36. Great review, great show. I had tickets for their concert at the Beacon last year but unfortunately couldn’t make it. The last time I saw them was in 2002 at DC’s 9:30 club (a much more intimate venue than T@MSG). Glad I had the chance to see them again. Amazing band to see live.

    Here’s a video of Sigur Ros playing Olsen Olsen outside their recording studio in Iceland. Not really concert footage but it’s the kind of thing that makes me want to go on a pilgrimage to Iceland.

    http://www.hildur.com/video/sumar.mov

  37. James Jonas  |   Posted on Feb 15th, 2006 0

    oh, and i’ve got a live version of hafsol over here. the quality of the recording is a bit poor though so don’t expect too much.

    http://thefund.blogs.com/fund/2006/02/sigur_rs_hafsol.html

  38. J Fisher  |   Posted on Feb 15th, 2006 0

    a righteous, yet refreshingly objective review of a band that is setting a new standard for talent and ingenuity. the VI reminds us that the art we appreciate is still driven by the fundamental sciences which define musical theory and technique. And while it’s easy to be blown away by the energy and innovation of bands like Sigur Ros, we look forward to more reviewers like the VI who can savor the art, but can offer us a window into the true musical talent, technical ability, and discipline of the musicians themselves. In a music scene flooded by gushy reviews and often blinding praise, we are thankful that finally something wicked this way comes.

  39. Jules Kesner  |   Posted on Feb 15th, 2006 0

    great review, VI. so are these guys like the icelandic Sugar Ray?

    awful joke, apologies. apologies… all around. honestly though, I’m not familiar with this band, but the review has drawn my interest. VI — any cool websites you recommend to check out their stuff? thanks, and keep the reviews coming.

  40. xmg  |   Posted on Feb 15th, 2006 0

    The media section on the band’s website is a good place to start. They have some amazing videos with great cinematography and they always work really well with the music to dial up the emotion. Glosoli and Hoppipolla are their most recent videos although you should also check out their videos for vaka and viorar vel til loftarasa

    http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/media/dldvideo.php

  41. Nice review. I like the first paragraph. That’s how I feel. And… I have tickets!!!!!
    http://glosoli.blogspot.com/2006/02/sigur-rs-tickets.html

  42. merp  |   Posted on Feb 16th, 2006 0

    Truly good review that captures their performance and what it evokes, although I would have to bring up some crowd issues in response to Amrit’s description of the audience in his last paragraph. From where we were sitting, as well as from where some friends on the opposite side of the theater were sitting, the was a very present minority of people who weren’t as thoughtful as those he describes.

    Some examples: the gang individuals who arrived with only 45 minutes left in the show and decided during their walk to the front of the stage to yell repeatedly, inexplicably, what we made out to be, “Blur Sucks!” over and over, especially during the quiet moments, before exiting the way they came 30 minutes later. Another example: the entire, apparently acquainted, drunken row in front of our friends whose ceaseless turnover for beer runs at full-volume was surpassed only by the fact one of them had taken off his pants early in the evening and left them off for the duration. By way of a third example, did anyone hear during an absolutely silent pause in one of the last songs, the shouts from the back, “Let’s Smoke Some Pot!” and, disgustingly, “Faggot!”

    Thankfully, the music and performance were truly transcendant and eye-opening and could not be denied regardless of distractions. I just felt bad as many of us were either seeing them for the first time or die-hard fans, and it seemed that a vocal minority in attendance didn’t respect or acknowledge its neighbors or the community that the music engenders. Still, am I first on line for tix next time they come through NYC? Absolutely.

  43. Shanimal  |   Posted on Feb 18th, 2006 0

    Great review. Almost feels like I was there. Keep it up VI.

  44. Fortune  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2006 0

    very cool review. I enjoyed this concert a lot. Sound quality could have been better. Even with the issues, I still think the music that they played was phenomenal. I didn’t get to catch them at the Beacon. Next time they’re here I will most definitely be there.

    The people in the crowd didn’t really care too much about those around them. I agree about the crowd and the yelling in the middle of songs. I admittedly let out a “wooo!” at the end of some songs, but ruining those great silent moments is a sin!

    I heard the “faggot” thing too, but when I asked my friend if he heard it he said he didn’t…so I figured I was just hearing things.

    PS- thanks for not writing about glaciers.

  45. Michael  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2006 0

    I will admit to making Sigur Ros a family occasion, bringing along my 15 year-old son, who listens to the band obsessively. (When he was, like, 12, he would beg me to turn them off the stereo…now they’re required listening amongst his classmates.) For him, it was a chance to see a “rock” show on a grand, theatrical scale that still managed to hold onto an indie sensibility — unlike the rock spectacles I used to see at MSG in earlier decades.

    Clearly the band knows the range of its audience: they were selling Sigur Ros “onesies” at the merch stand. The only embarrassing moment of the event, for me at least, was when the ticket taker wanted to make sure I knew I was in the line for Sigur Ros, not Billy Joel. As if.

  46. jbz  |   Posted on Feb 21st, 2006 0

    Just wanted to let you know that some girl is passing off your review as her own…

    http://druggedfairy.livejournal.com/23746.html

    Huge chunks pretty much cut and paste. Sorry to narc, just hate plagiarism.

  47. Wow-jbz, thanks for posting that! I guess that cut and paste job should be taken as a compliment; I’m just shocked she didn’t change a few words, just for kicks!

  48. jbz  |   Posted on Feb 21st, 2006 0

    Least she could’ve done was change the relative details for the show. She used your review of MSG for her write-up of a completely different show. I was at that Calvin College show on Saturday and the audience was very well-behaved, no cat-calls, etc. Not that anyone reads her particular site (I just stumbled across it after a technorati search), just feel your very eloquently presented post shouldn’t cheapened like that. I tried to report it as a copyright abuse on LiveJournal’s abuse page

    http://www.livejournal.com/abuse/report.bml

    but they don’t allow third party reporting of copyright stuff. Anyway, sorry to raise a ruckus. Great review! Take care.

  49. Completely amazing.
    Thanks again jbz!

    Cheers,
    Amrit

  50. Great site=) Is it wordpress??

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